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1-844-477-7707 (US only)
(920) 684-4990 (International) | Contact Us

Imagination Takes the Wheel: Kindig-it Design

Dave Kindig admits, “Problem for me is I have a very active imagination.” That’s what we’d call a good problem to have, and one that keeps the team busy at Kindig-it Design

“I really like to have more than 10 cars to build at any given time. There’s at least 25, 30 cars in here that we’re working on at all times,” Kindig reports. “I really wanted it this way. To be honest with you, I would actually double the size again if I had the ability, because I’m a glutton for punishment,” he laughs.

Kindig’s imagination has fueled his success and set him apart over the years. “I’ve always had a very loving eye… for exotic cars and I’ve got a lot of designs that I’ve just, you know, scribbled, whether it’s on the floor, whether it’s on a piece of paper on the back wall,” he explains. 

“I’ve always been very passionate about that shape and design. I love driving fast. I know how to handle a corner. And so, what’s [better] than driving a Ferrari is building your own car that would beat a Ferrari.”

Kindig’s decision to launch his own business was a risk that paid off. “I got started in June of ’99, basically was able to finally talk my wife into letting me quit my job, go draw cars in the kitchen, and make a living for a little family.” Two weeks after his son Drew was born, Kindig did exactly that. 

“23 years later here we are,” he says with well-earned satisfaction. Dave gratefully points out that his wife, Charity, has worked with him “the entire time.” Kindig-it Design has grown into a family business. When we visited, his son Drew, previously at Boeing, was working on Kindig-it door handles. And his “badass” daughter Bailey manages the company’s social media and clothing product development.

This Baileigh Biography video gave us the chance to hang out in Kindig-it Design’s showroom. We got an up-close view of some of Kindig’s bold, dynamic designs and restorations, including the 1950 Volkswagen Hebmüller, “the rarest of rare convertibles.” For the 1953 Barndoor Deluxe VW Bus, “the body and paint is all done here at Kindig-it Design. All the metal finish was… done here.” The 1967 Chevelle “Caldera” boasts a turnkey twin turbo LS7 engine and “kick-ass” Kindig door handles, among other fine points. 

Standing beside the stunning bright green 1972 Pantera, Kindig rattled off some of the customizations that make it such a special ride. “This one in particular was really kind of a trick piece, because every panel on the car, except for the rear deck lid skin, has been changed up,” he notes. “We’ve dropped the center of the hood, 3D-printed some new grills, and, of course, a lot of the equipment around here is what it takes to build something kick-ass like this.” Would any of those tools be Baileigh tools? “As a matter of fact they would be,” replied Kindig with a chin scratch and a wry smile.

“Something else that was really a big challenge for us on this car was to make the owner of the car fit,” recalls Kindig. The client, Ernie Boch Jr., stands well over 6 feet tall. “So, we cut the car in half and, of course, because we had a custom built chassis by the Roadster Shop, which gave us an additional 4 inches of length in the wheelbase, we’re able to take another set of doors and stretch these ones out, which gave us the ability to put a six-foot-five, six-foot-six guy in the car. Which is really, really cool.”

With an eye for aesthetics and practicality, Kindig designed the wheels too. “I used a lot of the styling cues that would be on the original Pantera wheels as the opening of this design exercise, but, of course, I made them very open and light.”

While talking with us, Kindig provided insight into his creative process. “When I’m selling a client a design… basically I find out what they like, what kind of colors they like. Do they want it real low? Do they want [it] a little bit more conservative? Am I getting really radical?” Those client conversations stoke Kindig’s active imagination and, from there, it’s full speed ahead.

“You know, a lot of times within 5 minutes I’ve already got a pretty good idea of what direction we’re going on the car. Within 10 minutes, I’m already excited to put the rendering together and to be able to produce that car for them. And in my mind I’m already driving the car up and down the street. I can already imagine and visualize what that car looks like. I’m just jonesing to get to a piece of paper and start drawing it up, because as soon as that’s done that’s just one step closer to it on the road.”

While visiting Kindig-it Design, we stopped by the shop and chatted with engineer Will Lockwood and fabricator Eric Larsen. “So, here’s where the magic happens,” announced Lockwood. “This is where we get Dave’s drawings down off the wall and build them into cars.”

The team at Kindig-it Design can depend on some hardy, old-school tools, like a Pexto shear from the 1920s, a DoALL vertical bandsaw, and a thunderously loud Powell hammer. “You can hear this thing down the street,” says Larsen.

Along with the legacy machines, Baileigh Industrial equipment helps realize Kindig’s visions efficiently and precisely. Lockwood singled out the Shrinker Stretcher MSS-14H: “One of my favorites, this Baileigh shrinker stretcher. You can put thumbnail dies in any one of these machines and be there for hours, where this thing would take you about 7 minutes, so I really, really like it.”

Lockwood and Larsen agree that the Baileigh magnetic brake is a uniquely valuable tool in the shop’s arsenal. “All the factory stuff that it comes with allows us to do little tiny boxes, big boxes, and stuff that you just cannot bend on any other unit,” explains Lockwood. “Upper bed rails on the early Chevys, or [when] you got to wrap that all the way around, I mean, there’s no other way to do it.” It’s both a “magical monster” and a “game-changer.”

According to Kindig, “Baileigh found us about the same time we were looking for Baileigh. We’re really trying to expand our ability to do other sheet metal fabrication. And… a lot of the equipment that we have in-house is from Baileigh.… [W]e’ve just worked really well with those guys.” Baileigh Industrial has also played a significant role in Kindig’s efforts to boost the skills of up-and-coming car restorers and fabricators.

In recent years, Kindig has launched Kindig Academy at Lincoln Tech to help “keep the industry going” and address a shortage of trained talent in the custom auto field. “There’s a lot of people that really like to build cars, but they’re getting extremely hard to find,” he explains. “We’ve been working for a couple years with some very good friends of ours at Lincoln Technical Institute, primarily the Denver campus…. We have now 10,000 square feet of the Kindig Academy.” Through intense courses, dedicated students can take their skills to the next level.

I think 85% of the tooling in there is actually from Baileigh.” As Kindig remembers, “we cleaned out everything they had at SEMA and then some. So that was pretty cool to be able to get it in there. It’s all set up really, really well and… this is going to be a lot easier to teach the next generation of fabricators how to do it properly by having the right tools.”

Kindig and Baileigh Industrial have shared goals: cultivating up-and-coming fabricators and making crucial equipment available to them. He praises Baileigh for raising awareness and broadening access to metalworking demonstrations and tutorials. “Baileigh has really done a great job of taking the reins and instead of keeping it such a secret of how to bend metal they’ve actually encompassed everybody that wanted to learn about it and then showcased them as well: showing new techniques, coming up with new equipment, new dies, and making sure that everybody knows about it. I mean, that’s how you’re going to win the battle.”

What’s on the horizon for Kindig-it Design? “We’ve done very very well with my carbon fiber Corvette program and, you know, we’re working on four different body styles, two different drive trains to begin with. One’s electric, one’s gasoline, and we’ve had great success with those. In fact, overwhelmingly great success,” Kindig confirms, “so I’d like to actually change it up to where we can continue to do the one-off cars… but also to have this full turnkey line. I think it’s an important part for us to look at [in] the future.”

The Corvettes can provide rich training opportunities. “This is a great way to bring somebody in that maybe doesn’t have as much experience… but they can easily be taught how to build a $400,000 car and do it over and over again and get very good at it and very efficient at it. And then maybe move them into the one-offs…. I’m always trying to kind of stay ahead of the curve and grow and this is certainly working out.”

When asked about the legacy he wants to pass on, Dave Kindig focused on his family and close colleagues. “I think I’d like to see my son and my daughter take over the business…. I’ve got so many wonderful people that have been here for decades and… I would like to make sure that they’re all… obviously taken care of.”

Through his example, Kindig hopes to show his kids “how to find somebody you love and never let them go and take care of your family and your friends and… to grow…. It’s been a charming life and I wouldn’t wouldn’t trade anything for anything, so I would love for them to have the same.”

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